[In the first post on my secular blog (ibsundry.wordpress.com), I made the following statement:
I learned a long time ago that often things are a matter of our perspective. Most every situation in life is neutral in and of itself. We assign them their positive or negative values.
This statement prompted a reader to ask me for a clarification of my statement. The following article is my attempt to do so.]
Allow me to begin by saying that I do not deny the existence of good and evil. Note that I qualified my statement by identifying that which is neutral as being a “situation in life.” People do not fall into this category. Possessing intelligence and the ability to choose, human beings are the only inhabitants of the material universe capable of being either good or evil.
Animals possess a rudimentary intelligence. Yet, they do not have a sense of morality. Thus, animals become neutral things as well, even the grizzly bear that mauls a hiker and the scavengers that may eat the hiker’s remains.
Disease is likewise a neutral thing. Even when a living thing such as a virus or bacteria causes disease, a disease lacks a sense of intelligence or morality. A virus causing the disease may be taking steps to ensure its own survival instinctually but it does not do so with any thought that its survival brings harm to its host.
Natural phenomena like tornados and hurricanes are neutral also. They have no governing intelligence that would cause the malicious targeting of one person’s house in deference to the house of his or her neighbor. Nor do natural phenomena maintain a moral code that they can violate.
A requisite for something being good or bad is intelligence (i.e., the ability to choose) and morality (i.e., the ability to evaluate the consequences).
Why then do we automatically assign a negative or positive value to those things we encounter in life when they are actually neutral in their very being? It is because it is hard for us to detach ourselves emotionally from those things we experience in this life. When my house escapes destruction from the flood, it is a good thing even though it washed my neighbor’s house away. I sympathize with him in his loss, but I remain happy anyway. My neighbor, though, evaluates the situation as being “evil” (i.e., the opposite of good).
I contracted colon cancer. In reality, that is a neutral thing. Cancer is merely a mutation that causes a cell to copy itself incorrectly. Those familiar with my situation as well as myself assigns the “value” of the situation. We say that it is a “bad” thing. If cancer causes me to become angry with God, then, yes, I have allowed it to become an evil thing. If, on the other hand, I allow cancer to remind me of my temporal nature and enable it to strengthen my relationship with God, then it has become a good thing. The cancer is merely a variable in the ultimate equation.
The peace of mind that such thinking will bring you is astonishing. If you can learn to evaluate life in these terms, you will become amazed at how much less stress you will experience. Ultimately, we have little to no power over the vast majority of the situations we encounter in life. We, however, have the power to assign that situation its value. It is in our own best interest to recognize the neutrality of the moment and react as positively as we can. Worrying about that situation will only make things worse. Again, you must learn to detach emotionally to accomplish this. I think, however, you will find such discipline to be worth the effort you must put forth.